Does Grocery Shopping With Cash Equal Healthier Purchases?

The topic of a “cash-only diet” has been discussed quite a bit recently after some research on the subject was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Researchers investigated whether the method of payment – cash, credit card, or debit card – influenced types of foods purchased by shoppers. What they discovered is that when debit or credit cards were used to purchase groceries more unhealthy products ended up in the cart than if shoppers paid with cash.

The research team attributes this to the fact that perhaps the abstractness of plastic payments can reduce the pain of payment and result in more impulse purchases such as candy, cookies, and other less healthy foods. When paying with cash, shoppers do not purchase these products as often. Therefore, perhaps a “cash-only diet” could result in a healthier diet!

What is your opinion of this research? What payment method do you use for grocery shopping? Do you believe using cash currently (or would) influence your food purchases?

P.S. – Researchers also noticed that consumers who shop on weekends were less likely to be impulsive and tended to stick to a list.

What days of the week do you shop on? How many times a week do you visit the grocery store? Do you have a written list that you strictly stick to? Or do you have a general list and then just pick up other items you may need or are on sale?


One thought on “Does Grocery Shopping With Cash Equal Healthier Purchases?

  1. jason says:

    1. id like to see the breakdown of those that typically pay with cash and those that pay with card on a wealth and age basis. there has got to be something setting those groups apart.
    of the 49.4% that pay with a card a little less than half do it 90% of the time. that means that
    alot of the variation in those that pay with cards and those that do not pay with cards is driven by people who always do it. this leaves open room for their personal characteristics to be driving the results. there is a large variety of issues that come from this problem but one could simply be a credit constraint. those people that are paying with cash might not have enough to afford impulse buys. or it could be the case that people paying with cash only take enough to the store to get exactly what they plan out in advance thus they don’t make the impulse buy, but it wasn’t the cash that did it, simply a characteristic of the shopper

    2. i did try to read the study in depth but i could have missed this…i was wondering how they classify those payments which are done by both a card and cash. are those stricken from the study altogether?

    2. for the results to mean anything, it also has to be the case that the perception of healthy/unhealthy of those that are surveyed needs to be close to reality. otherwise, people might be impulsively buying those goods which are actually beneficial to them (less of an issue really)

    3. confused with the laboratory study but here’s my worry. it is my understanding that the study was done on computers, so whether you tell someone that they are paying by cash or credit card really makes no difference. they know its a study and they don’t feel the pang of pulling out their wallet and letting go of the cash/credit.

    got bored at the end and didn’t read past the lab study 😉 not a bad article though. it piles on more issues the list of problems that credit card use is plagued with.

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